AUSTIN, Texas -- There was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday morning repeatedly warning the Iraqis that prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva Convention and that showing pictures of POWs is wrong. That would be the same Donald Rumsfeld who refused to classify the POWs at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as POWs, instead calling them "detainees" and "military combatants."
The administration initially prepared to claim Al Qaeda fighters were not covered by the Geneva Convention, until the military pointed out that what goes around, comes around. We displayed pictures of our prisoners wearing black hoods, in chains and housed in outdoor, chain-link kennels.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... There is stuff flying under the radar you would not believe.
For one thing, the House has passed President Bush's budget, including the second round of tax cuts--$726 billion, 50 percent of it going to the richest 1 percent of the people in this country. In the Senate, Democrats managed to repeal more than half of the tax cut in order to pay for the current war, but Sen. Bill Frist, Republican majority leader, says he plans to go back and take that out of the bill. Had it not been for war, this budget would have been the subject of a huge national debate.
If they pass the entire tax cut, it will provide a break of $256 a year to the average working family. Almost half of all taxpayers will get less than $100. But someone making a million dollars a year will get a cut of $92,000. This is iniquitous. It is wicked. It is damnably unfair.
This budget does three stupid and mean things simultaneously: It cuts taxes for the richest Americans during a national crisis, cuts domestic spending that people's lives depend on, and completely ignores the cost of both war and reconstruction. Under this budget, almost all discretionary domestic programs, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, are subject to cuts or restraints.
Student loans, child-care, food stamps, school lunches, job training, veterans programs, and cash assistance for the elderly and disabled poor are all being cut. That means people's lives will be cut up. Mothers who have struggled to get off welfare, barely making it on minimum-wage jobs, will lose child-care and be pushed back onto the rolls--with their eligibility to run out soon. Young people trying to acquire job skills will be pushed back onto the street.
This plan is supposed to stimulate jobs and growth. It doesn't. Analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows paltry job growth this year, and the plan would actually increase job losses in the long run. Even by White House estimates, the plan would produce only 190,000 jobs this year for the more than 8 million people seeking work. Since March 2001, the economy has lost 2.5 million jobs.
The House "stimulus" bill offers $114 billion in corporate tax concessions, mostly in the form of 30 percent in extra "depreciation" write-offs in each of the next three years. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the changes will wipe out more than a fifth of otherwise expected corporate income tax payments over the next three years. The bill provides $8 in corporate tax cuts for every dollar allocated to help unemployed workers.
Also under cover of war, the House passed a bankruptcy law that makes it harder for individual debtors to file for bankruptcy and easier for corporations to do so. The bill is full of ugly little details, including the House rejection of an amendment to give families owed child support a stronger claim on the assets of a delinquent former spouse than, say, Visa or MasterCard. Nope, corporations first, children last. It's compassionate conservatism.
In a vote that will come to haunt us all, the Senate killed a Democratic effort to remove tax cuts worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years and allocate the savings to Social Security.
Now here's a nifty little item: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, on the first day of the war, ordered the service chiefs to provide examples in which President Bush could cite national security to exempt the military from environmental laws. The administration has already asked Congress to ease laws governing endangered species, marine mammals, and air and water quality in the name of military training. According to The Washington Post, Wolfowitz suggested the Pentagon reverse its "past constraint" against having the president invoke the national security exemptions written into some environmental laws. Interesting: National security includes more pollution?